Saturday, May 10, 2014

Epilogue Part 1 (The Grief of the Desire)

Life bursts forth from a seed due to desire. Desire completes this vast universe. It causes infinitesimal atoms take varied shapes in the wish of to be something. Life without desire is like leaves in the autumn, directionless and thus having no destiny.
Sun has the desire to shine, moon wants to play hide and seek. The clouds aspire for rain; the earth yearns to quench its thirst. The flowers want to smile and the nightingale loves to sing. This world functions because of desire.

The same desire aides the artist to articulate the subtle ideas into invaluable form. Everything wishes completion and everything has its course to accomplish it. This desire serves as a ground on which every battle can be fought and facilitates to crush the impediments.

Love…the ultimate miracle and Reality which can transform the sand into mountains, the power which can melt the glaciers. It can bring together first and the last. In love, beginnings and ends fuse, love brings everything to the threshold of the origin. Every distinction disappears and just one voice remains. 

یہ زندگی اک آرزو ہے،
 یہ زندگی اک جستجو ہے۔۔۔"

This Life is a desire
This Life is a search 

Part 1 ends here 
(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this epilogue)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chapter no. 17: The Life is a Desire (IV)

Qandeel was sitting in the departure lounge of airport. The situation caused abject misery to her. She looked beyond the glass windows of the lounge and felt the same desolate silence out there. The dawn lit the lounge fairly after a while yet it could not lift up her mood. The light didn’t matter to her anymore.

“Mein rahun ager na rahun ager, jo hai sach mera w sahun ager,
Karun na khata aur mily saza, ho koi sitam samjhun ata,
Had-e-bekhudi se ashnayi ki der hai,
Musafir hum bhi rah-e-shauq k ban jayengey”

The words haunted her which she wrote in her diary once. Qandeel could never imagine at that time that these words would come to define her world succinctly.

“Gham-e-Agahi se ashnayi ki der hai,
Musafir hum bhi rah-e-shauq k ban jayen…”

Knowledge is painful and ignorance is bliss, she concluded sitting there on the bench. She will leave her city shortly and did not know where else she was destined to go. Qandeel bowed her head and looked at the lines on her hands to decipher the next move of her destiny. She had the urge to know what else she would be asked to do next. What else she will have to lose besides Baba. After leaving Ilaaf Lashari, leaving her native city; what else she will be asked to leave? She knew she didn’t have any answers.
“Your journey line is rather long, Qandeel. You will get to travel a lot.” Her class fellow had commented looking at her right palm more than a year ago. Surprise and amusement came simultaneously at this revelation.
“Yeah right, I will travel a lot; from my home to university and back home. No tourist has ever traveled this much.” Qandeel had commented sarcastically and started laughing again.
The memory made her want to weep.
Her journey was commencing from here. She was already sore and enervated. Imran had confirmed her seat for Lahore. Qandeel will be flying in the morning which was taking eons to rise. She sat on the bench like a statue. She wanted to sleep but more than that she longed for the caring arms which would hold her while she slept. Her eyes drooped for umpteenth time. For past several days, sleep made her more tired and restless than peaceful. 
“Ammi.” She whispered softly. Amazing how she had never known her mother and yet she called her. As if the long suppressed desire to lose herself in her mother reared its head in her unconscious.
 Just then somebody touched Qandeel on her shoulder gently. She looked up, her neck stiff and stood up slowly.
“We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to catch you but thank God you are still here. I would have regretted otherwise, for not seeing you off.” Hamza Shahid was kind as always. Qandeel didn’t care less. “Kamran came to me in time otherwise you didn’t even think about informing us about your decision.” He was sorrowful.
“I apologize.” Qandeel offered mechanically.
“I should be apologizing to you Qandeel. I had no idea Aliya would be so rude or I would have forewarned her. I am so sorry Qandeel you had to spend the night at airport.” Kamran Ali was guilty.
“It’s OK. It’s not Aliya’s fault. I have no grudges, whatsoever.” She felt her brain was throwing these words out for her otherwise she was dormant.
“When is your flight?” Hamza Shahid asked.
“At seven a.m.”
“I brought your hand carry. You forgot it at my home.” Kamran Ali handed her the suitcase which she took without comment.
Finally both men realized her abnormal behavior.
“I wanted to talk to you about several things but it’s time for your flight and you haven’t had proper sleep so I will leave this matter for another time.” Hamza Shahid said surveying her tell tale red rimmed eyes.
“Try to take rest in the plane. I have asked Sohail to inform me when you reach Islamabad. Just take proper rest there and try to look at things with new aspect.” Kamran Ali advised Qandeel to which she merely nodded.
“You are my daughter Qandeel and I vow I will never let you feel you are alone. I will be visiting you now and then.” Hamza Shahid patted her head gently.
Qandeel heard her flight announcement. She steadied the handbag on her shoulder and started towards the doors, dragging the hand carry. She wanted to turn and say final goodbye to them.
 “Let’s go to hospital. Ilaaf must be conscious now.” Kamran Ali’s words stopped her in her tracks but she could not turn.
“No, I don’t want to face Qaiser Lashari. Usman will contact me as soon as Ilaaf comes into consciousness. Then we can visit him.” All doors were sealed behind Qandeel. She wanted to say bye to them but didn’t have the heart to face them now. 
“His condition was worse at night. I was aghast.”
“May Allah bless him.” This exchange propelled Qandeel to a distance from which no retreat was possible. She could listen anything but his name. She didn’t care less if he lived or died. She didn’t want to stay at a place where his name was uttered even if unconsciously done. She wanted to move ahead.
Qandeel passively went through the procedure, unaware of her movements and only acting on commands. She reached inside the plane and slumped into her seat. Somebody asked her to tie the seat belt and she did. After that everything went into motion at once. Her body jerked with the motion of the plane and then she was dead asleep. After a moment she felt her shoulder being shaken. She woke up with a start. A woman was standing beside her.
“We are going to land in Islamabad soon.” The woman informed her kindly. Qandeel sat up and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “I think you were too tired. Air hostess came thrice to serve you but you were sleeping. Please have these biscuits you must be hungry.” Qandeel thanked her and took two biscuits from her. She drank some water and checked time on her cell phone. It was 10 a.m.! She was surprised that she slept for so long when in fact she felt the time passed in a wink. Her plane landed at last. She stood up to collect her bags. She was so weary that this act in itself was an ordeal for her. Qandeel dragged herself with all of her strength to the lounge where Sohail was waiting for her. Qandeel came into automatic mode again. She greeted him out of habit. He took her bags, held her hand and walked out of the airport. She lumbered after him silently. Sohail attempted at small talk on their way to home which earned monosyllabic responses. Fatigue was spreading to every pore and her head was getting heavier. 
As the car stopped in the porch, Qandeel came out of it and stood there unable to move forward. She took long breaths to steady her nerves.
“Go on, Qandeel! Ammi is waiting for you inside.” Sohail had her luggage in his hands. He beckoned her forward.
Shamma Khala had come out to greet her. Qandeel could see so much love in her eyes from the distance. She wanted to run into her inviting arms but was too tired to even take a step. Shamma Khala fulfilled her wish and came to her hurriedly. Qandeel fell into her arms.
“My child, my love! I am sorry I could not come to you earlier. I couldn’t do anything for you.” Shamma Khala started crying. Qandeel didn’t cry. She said just one thing when Khala took her face in her hands.
“I want to sleep.” Qandeel closed her eyes. Someone held her by shoulders.
“Take her in her room, Sohail.”
Qandeel opened her eyes. She saw Khala sitting beside her so she closed her eyes again. She fell into a peaceful sleep finally.
Qandeel developed a pattern there. She would contest between waking up and sleeping, she would eat and wash herself because Khala asked her to then she would go back to sleep holding Khala’s hand. She totally lost the sense of time and space after arriving here. It could not be decided if she wanted to sleep away her tiredness or her tiredness wanted to sleep her away. In either case she only slept and discarded everything else.
Saba and Bisma bhabhi in her room along with khala one night when she woke up. Khala gave her spoonfuls of chicken corn soup. She couldn’t take much. After eating she repeated her same request; “I want to sleep.”
“You can sleep my dear. You look a lot better than when you arrived. Doctor checked you and he declared you fit.” Khala combed her hair with her fingers gently.
Qandeel smiled weakly and hit the pillow instantly.
“Hamza Shahid called. Sohail told him that you are sleeping. Do talk to him when you wake up. That will make him feel much better.” Qandeel nodded without understanding a single word and fell asleep.
Her peaceful sleep was intruded by the fierce flames of a fire in a river. The flames were touching the heaven and illuminated whole area. It simmered Qandeel. She was thirsty but water was nowhere in the sight. She was looking around for it when she noticed somebody standing among the blazing flames on the other side of the river. She squinted to see clearly that crazy person.
“Ilaaf!” She screamed hysterically. They could see each other despite of the soaring flames.
“Qandeel come to me. I need you.” Qandeel stepped forward but a spark scared her away. Her eyes watered due to soot.
“I can’t come. I cannot cross this fire.” Qandeel started crying.
“Then I am coming to you.” Came his solemn response.
“No, please don’t. For God’s sake, don’t do it. It will kill you.” She begged him, tears streaming down her face.
She saw that he was resolute she kept on screaming to him but to no avail.
“I must come to you. You are my destiny.” He raised his arms above his head and dived in the fire.
Qandeel choked on her scream. She fell on her knees and wept helplessly.
Fire never forgives anybody. It was born to burn. It would not let on even if its Qandeel’s Ilaaf. She was powerless. The fire finished everything in one single sweep; her desire, her aspirations, her love and her Ilaaf, everything burned in those flames and she could just watch.
(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Chapter no. 17: This Life is a Desire (III)

Adnan finally decided to leave when Ilaaf didn’t return, from wherever he had gone. He waited for him for hours in his lounge. He was taken aback when he saw the condition of the room and from what Fazal told him, he guessed that Ilaaf would return by the morning. He did not know where Ilaaf was or he would have gone after him. 
All the servants were set to clean the room, diligently. Adnan lit a cigarette and called Fazal to him. Fazal’s face was covered with bruises, it was blue with the beating he got from Ilaaf. Adnan pitied him.
“I am going back to home. Inform me as soon as you hear anything about Ilaaf, got it?” Adnan instructed him.
“Sayin, I beg you please don’t go home but find him. He was beside himself when he left the home and it’s worrying me. He may hurt himself.”
Adnan eyed him closely and wondered if he was really worried or pretending to be. Ilaaf really beat him to the pulp and this man was asking him to go and look for him, what he even meant!
“How can I tell where is he, Fazal? I cannot go and look for him on every street. He may be very angry but he will come back in his time. Don’t worry. And go to some doctor ASAP. You will need to take medicine for these.” He pointed to his face. Adnan usually was indifferent to the servants yet he couldn’t help being concerned for him. Fazal really looked in poor condition.
“No sayien, I know Ilaaf sayien. He has never before raised a hand on his servant. He was furious when he went out of home. Please, for God’s sake sayien, look for him, he may hurt himself and I cannot bear it. I talked to Qaiser sayien and he thought that this is temporary emotional breakdown and he’ll recover, but I don’t believe it sayien, he was not in his senses when he went out. Please you must go and find him wherever he is.” Poor man was choking on the tears.
“You tell me, where should I look for him? This city is so big and he could be anywhere.” Adnan was resigned.
“Sayien, go to Qandeel bibi’s house. I am sure he went there.” Adnan’s jaw dropped open. How could he not come to the same conclusion. Why on earth did he rule out this possibility. Of course Ilaaf would go to Qandeel, first thing when he wakes up, to justify his position. He had admiration for the man in his eyes, how easily he solved the predicament. “He loves Qandeel bibi so much, I am sure you will find him there.” It angered Adnan when Fazal took Qandeel’s name with such reverence but he let it pass.
“Alright, I will go there but it will be very difficult to find him if he is not at her house.” Fazal nodded and went back to other servants and got busy with them in putting the room in respectable condition. 
Adnan looked over the lounge once more. It was the same place which Ilaaf decorated with so much care. Each piece was his selection; showpiece, artificial plants, curtains, sofas, central and side tables, and different decoration items. A day ago, this same place represented the splendid taste of an artist and now it looked like a tornado passed through it. Ilaaf didn’t leave a single glass piece in this room. Adnan didn’t have the chance to ask Fazal how did Ilaaf manage to do this since it was not possible to wreak such level of destruction, unarmed. He looked around and found the ‘arm’. Near the beautiful entrance door, one of the slim iron rods, fixed for decoration, was removed. The paint and cement from the wall had come out too, with the rod.
Adnan stared at it in disbelief for considerable time and then called one of the nearby servants.
“What happened to it?” He pointed to a place where the rod was missing.
“Sayien took out this rod and broke all of the glasses with the help of it.” Adnan nodded, non-committal and headed out. Now he was very worried. He couldn’t even dream that Ilaaf would react so violently when stopped from going to hearing.
Those rods were firmly cemented in the wall. The animal power was required to take it out of the wall; it defined Ilaaf’s state-of-mind perfectly.
Adnan was clearly disturbed now. His lips were pursed and his forehead creased. He was barely on the road when his cell phone rang. Qaiser Lashari was calling. Hope flickered in Adnan but what he heard on phone was enough to blow his mind.
“Dr. Khalid was not aware that Ilaaf had a row with us when he went out. Ilaaf came to him to treat his injury. He was in foul mood when he left the clinic and Dr. thought it necessary to call me.” Adnan vowed with himself to find him at once now.
“Uncle I am on my way to find him. Fazal guessed he could be at Qandeel’s house and I am going there. Will report to you if I don’t find him there.”
“I am leaving for Karachi at once. Keep in contact.” Qaiser Lashari instructed him and ended the call.
Adnan increased the speed of the car. Ilaaf was important to all of them, and Adnan himself could not even bear a scratch on his closest friend.
For the first time in his entire life did Adnan Bhatti call upon Allah, fervently. The same Adnan Bhatti who never bothered with religion, rules and the Creator Himself was beseeching Allah in his heart, praying for the safety of his friend. And at that moment his heart gave in to the notion of love. He admitted that love exists in this universe or he would never be worried sick for Ilaaf this way.
In utter helplessness, the infidel’s yearning for miracle brings him closer to Faith. These fifteen minutes compelled Adnan to traverse the intellectual path spreading over fifteen centuries. The only dear thing to him was Ilaaf in this world. The man of steel nerves could never think of losing his dearest friend. He knew he could never survive the anguish it would cause him, mentally at least. He didn’t want to lose himself. He wanted to live. And his existence was tied to Ilaaf’s happiness, and he could never think of compromise that, at any rate. He wanted to return the favor of friendship. He did everything to take Qandeel out of his friend’s life; now he wanted to bring him back to life, which didn’t seem so difficult at the moment. He knew his efforts and sincere friendship would turn him into old Ilaaf. If only he could save him this time, changing wouldn’t take time; he thought. His mind was in a jumble. He had never before felt the need to use his thought processes to this extent or in this direction.
Adnan saw Ilaaf’s car at the corner of the street. The driver’ side was open and the keys were in the ignition. He switched off the ignition, pocketed the keys and locked the door. His eyes searched the place while he walked towards Qandeel’s home. He never before went to her house himself but when their case was going on, he had the chance to visit this place.
Adnan was relieved that he’d finally find Ilaaf in her home but that made him hate Qandeel more for what she was. Earlier when they were in court, he remembered, how she scoffed at the fact that they even had something between them and now she had him inside her home. He was disgusted at her. Adnan was sure that Qandeel is a notorious girl. She would not let the big fish, like Ilaaf from her hands now that he was totally besotted to her. She could easily exploit his feelings. The ordinary girl, with no sound background would act exactly like that. Adnan was worried about so many things. Ilaaf’s reckless obsession for her and his future.
He was just few feet away from her home when he saw something that ran his blood cold. Somebody was lying on face down. His body was half on the stair leading to the house and half lying rudely on the ground. Adnan immediately got it was none other than Ilaaf. He ran madly to him and tried to roll him on his back. He also saw the lock on the door but he ignored it. “Ilaaf!” Ilaaf’s eyes were open but sightless.
He gathered his lifeless body in his hands and patted his cheeks to bring him to consciousness. Adnan noticed Ilaaf’s body was uncharacteristically hot and his pulse was slow, almost inaudible. He knew he’s running a fever.
“Ilaaf, wake up, take hold of yourself. Everything will be alright, man!” Adnan pleaded. He wasn’t expecting that Ilaaf would respond but he did. His eyes shone with some familiarity. Ilaaf was struggling to get up. It relieved Adnan somewhat because it was impossible for him to take Ilaaf to the car, alone. And he was in dire need of the medical treatment.
Ilaaf stood up slowly, weakly but not once did he try to acknowledge Adnan’s presence nor did he say anything. His manner was unusual as if he was expecting somebody else.
Adnan was silent and remained beside him. Ilaaf stooped a little and Adnan knew he is making sure the lock is there. Adnan saw the bandage on his forearm and wondered how he got this wound. It looked serious.
“She’s gone.” Ilaaf’s voice sounded so distant.
Ilaaf straightened up and still didn’t look at Adnan instead his eyes had that far away look.
“She has gone.” Adnan could still see there was no recognition, whatsoever, in Ilaaf’s eyes.
“She left me. She rejected me.” Ilaaf’s eyes were streaming profusely.
Somebody squeezed at Adnan’s heart. He had never seen Ilaaf so out of his element, so barren.
“My Qandeel left me. The light of my eyes deserted me forever. I am now blind to the world.” He started laughing in the middle of weeping and continued to do so while his tears spilled over his face.
Adnan grabbed his arm and said, “Ilaaf bro, stay put.”
Ilaaf shrugged away his hold and stumbled. Adnan made to hold him again but Ilaaf steadied himself and moved away from Adnan’s hands.
“She left me.” He was half crying, half laughing. “But I was never worthy of her so that’s good that she did.” Adnan didn’t know how to deal with him.
“I ruined her.” This time he staggered badly, Adnan tried to give him a hand but Ilaaf fell down on the road.
“Ilaaf, for God’s sake wake up!” Adnan was near to tears now. Ilaaf’s condition was unbearable for him. “I can’t see you like this. Stay put.” Ilaaf slapped him squarely, the moment he completed his sentence. Adnan wasn’t prepared for it and fell down due to the blow. He got up on the knees and looked at his friend, hurt. Ilaaf was staring at him, his eyes bloodshot.
“Get lost from here. I hate you.” Ilaaf was hysterical.
“I am your best friend, Ilaaf. And you said you can’t live without me.” Adnan’s voice dripped with hurt.
“You’re not my friend. You backstabbed me.” Adnan wouldn’t have been more hurt if Ilaaf had shot him straight on the head. “You are the reason Qandeel left me. I hate you, just go away from here.” Ilaaf cried harder and Adnan too couldn’t hold back his tears, which he always scoffed at and called it women’s business and shameful for men.
Ilaaf bend down and started crawling as he had no strength left in him to walk.  
“I ruined her. I orphaned her.” He was swaying on his feet. Adnan saw his body lurch forward, lifelessly.
“I even made her leave her home.” He couldn’t stand up now. Adnan reached for him but in vain. Ilaaf fell down and didn’t move. Adnan turned Ilaaf on his back and Ilaaf did not fight him back because he was unconscious now. Adnan tried to make him stand up but he felt very heavy. The truth was, Ilaaf’s condition had weakened Adnan not only mentally but also physically. He realized he would not be able to take Ilaaf hospital himself. He was crying again. He was looking for his cell phone in jeans pockets when two shadows came to him. They bent over Ilaaf, checking his condition. Adnan recognized them; they were Yusuf Mairaj’s friends but he couldn’t recall their names. He wondered why they were here.
“What happened to Ilaaf?” The elder one asked.
“He is injured and unconscious.”
“We should immediately take him to hospital, sir. Ilaaf is in very poor condition.” The other man said after checking Ilaaf’s pulse.
The older man nodded his agreement and inquired about Adnan’s car.
“It’s parked outside the street.” Suddenly he remembered their names. He was feeling better now.
Together they lifted him and gently put him on the backseat of Adnan’s car. Kamran Ali sat with Ilaaf in the back while Hamza Shahid rode in the passenger seat, beside Adnan. Hamza Shahid requested Adnan to drive to specific hospital. Adnan was in much control and he could take Ilaaf to the hospital of his choice but he didn’t object to Hamza Shahid’s request. And besides, they came to help him in his dire need. They asked a few questions about Ilaaf. They talked as if they were acquainted with Adnan, which was surprising for him. And then Hamza Shahid’s magnetic personality was also taking its effect over him. He felt like he was under a spell.
They reached the hospital. Ilaaf was put on a gurney and taken to ER because Hamza Shahid had already phoned the hospital. Adnan had the impression that the personnel there was familiar with him. Doctors attended to Ilaaf and they were sent out of Emergency. They took the chairs in the hallway and waited.
Adnan was troubled by Ilaaf’s condition. And he would never have been able to forgive himself if anything had happened to him. It took seconds and his whole being transformed into prayer, for Ilaaf’s safety. Adnan was never before so tired in his life.
He looked up at the sound of hurried footsteps.
“Oh Usman, thank God you’re here. Please ask these doctors to hurry in whatever they are doing to Ilaaf.” Hamza Shahid rushed towards Dr. Usman the moment he saw him. Dr. Usman told him to calm down and went inside ER.
Every second was agonizing for Adnan.
The door to ER swung open and Dr. Usman came towards them.
“I’m shifting him to ICU. He’s not catching up with the treatment.” He looked worried.
“Doctor – what is wrong with Ilaaf?” Adnan inquired, all tense.
“He has been suffering from major depression. I will be able to report more if I get his medical history. He’s injured and that’s hindering us in treatment so we’re shifting him to ICU.” Dr. Usman patiently explained to him.
“It will go away, no?” Adnan seemed to be on the edge of breaking down.
“Relax young man, Inshallah he’ll be alright. He’s got a major attack and it will take him days to recover from it but he will be alright.” Dr. Usman reassured him.
Hamza Shahid & Kamran Ali stood with Adnan and tried to comfort him. Adnan saw a stranger talking on a phone and that reminded him to inform Qaiser uncle about Ilaaf’s condition.
He called uncle and told him about till Ilaaf’s hospitalization. Qaiser uncle was in the city by this time and he said he’ll visit him. Adnan gave him hospital name and held his position of a sentinel in the corridor.
He would occasionally look inside through the thick glass window on the ICU door and wish that Ilaaf could get up even if just to slap him or scream at him. Adnan wanted to cry but no tears came. It felt so desolating.
“Ilaaf, bro I want to see you walking & talking again. I don’t care what you do to me. If you think I wronged you, I am the culprit then fine beat me to the pulp and I would stand still, just get up, I beg you.” Adnan watched Ilaaf and implored him in his heart.
He saw Dr. Usman coming out of the room and came towards him.
“There’s no danger regarding Ilaaf’s condition. We only need to keep him in strict observation. The time he takes to come in consciousness will determine the course for the doctors.” Adnan was visibly relieved to hear these words. “I think you should go home now. And it will be good if you could bring me his medical history.”
“You will have it, Doctor.” Adnan complied and came out of the hospital along with Hamza Shahid and Kamran Ali. They asked him to drop them at Qandeel’s home to get their car. Adnan decided he’ll send one of his men tomorrow to bring Ilaaf’s car to home.
When Adnan told Hamza Shahid that Qaiser Lashari would visit the hospital, he instructed Adnan not to tell him about their involvement in this matter. Though it was an unusual request yet Adnan couldn’t say no. In fact he also wanted to inquire about Qandeel but couldn’t bring up the courage to do so.
Fajr prayers were being called when he dropped the men at Qandeel’s home. Adnan sped towards Ilaaf’s place; he needed to ask Fazal a few things. He was well aware that there’s no medical history of Ilaaf because he had never had the need to be hospitalized. Fazal confirmed this and Adnan was heading back to the hospital because Qaiser Uncle was soon arriving there.
There was a cavity in his chest even on this bright day.
He claimed that he loved Ilaaf yet he never tried to understand his friend’s true feelings. Ilaaf was in major depression for a month now, and he was unaware of what his dearest friend was going through. He was disgusted at himself. He always assumed that this infatuation is temporary and Ilaaf will get over it soon. He never even tried to understand the depth of the feelings of his friend.
And Qandeel – he thought – if only he knew what she truly means to him, he would have put his goddamn personal opinions aside and wouldn’t have done what he did. He was the sole reason of his dearest friend’s anguish, and he never bothered to think about that. Adnan was perturbed. It was so unbearable just to reflect upon what he had done to his friend, and Ilaaf never complained. These reflections were getting too much for Adnan. The man who had never used his heart was overwhelmed by this hazard, and when he couldn’t take anymore he switched on the radio to smother the mental lashing.
A sweet song was playing on the radio waves and he let the voice fill the car.
Isey tum dil lagi samjho magar hai zindagi pyarey,
Isey tum unkahi keh lo magar hai banndagi pyarey…
Adnan’s mind swam in these words and he didn’t try to resist it.

kabhi socho to ye jano,
Muhabbat khwab lagti hai,
Mager ye ik haqiqat hai…
The one thing he now believed with all his heart was that love is not an ephemeral insignificant thing. And that, this unexplainable powerful asset held the world intact.
(special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Chapter no. 17: This Life is a Desire (II)

Qandeel’s mind was already made up that she would go to Islamabad to her aunt but she didn’t want to arrive there at this hour. Qandeel didn’t want to give Shama khala the impression that she left home under an obligation. The truth was, she left her home because of Ilaaf or else it was not possible for her to leave this city. Qandeel was born here, spent twenty-two years here and it naturally became dear to her. There were Baba’s friends, Kamran Ali, Hamza Shahid and Ayesha Omer. The roads here were familiar, every street close to her heart. She could not tell yet for how long she would stay away. Qandeel wanted to spend her life here but fate had other plans; unbeknownst to her. She wanted to stay away even from his shadow. She wanted to dwell somewhere where she wouldn’t hear his voice, couldn’t feel him and certainly not think about him. And that was not possible while remaining in the same city as his.
Qandeel needed to spend the night somewhere. She went through her options. She could not go at Maryam’s because her family didn’t like her or at least Qandeel felt so. If she would go to Hamza Shahid’s place then it would mean a longer stay, which she couldn’t allow to herself under present situation. She wanted to first arrive at Khala’s home and then inform him of her decision. She was agitated; an unknown fear was urging her to leave this city at once. Her heart was gloomy about the decision but she ignored it. Only Kamran Ali could provide her dwellings for a night on a condition that he’d not inform Maryam and Hamza Shahid until she reached Islamabad. Qandeel knew she would be able to convince him easily, and that was the only way to her peace of mind.
Qandeel took a taxi and arrived at Kamran Ali’s home. She was having qualms about her decision. She did not have any way to know how Aliya would react on her sudden arrival at this hour. Aliya has always been cordial to her but Qandeel could not foretell or trust anybody since recent turn of events and that was cultivating suspicions in her mind. Qandeel had to act so she ignored the voice in her head and rang the doorbell. It rang in a distance and every passing second was wringing her nerves. Qandeel wanted Kamran Ali to open the door. She wanted to ignore Aliya for as long as she could. It would be even better, Qandeel prayed in her heart, if Aliya stay asleep and Qandeel spend the night in their lounge without Aliya being aware of it and Qandeel would leave their place as soon as the day dawns, before Aliya wakes up. But this prayer was also rejected. How unlucky she was, there wasn’t a single passage out of this continuous misery.
Aliya opened her door and her eyes popped open when she saw Qandeel standing there. Qandeel said the Salam, not giving her a chance to speak and thus avoiding the endless inquisition and offense. Aliya invited her inside. Qandeel followed her and Aliya paused seeing the hand carry in Qandeel’s hand. Qandeel wasn’t surprised from her reactions, in fact she was getting used to of the stares and inquisitive eyes which she ignored quite artfully and moved on to her purpose without giving her a chance to even open her mouth.
“Can I meet Sir Kamran?” Qandeel continued right after the Salam.
“Yes – wh – why not.” The curiosity made her incoherent.
Kamran Ali came out to see who was on the door.
“Who was it?” His eyes fell on Qandeel right after he asked. It was a little jolt for him also, though of a different kind, to see Qandeel in his home at this hour. He was concerned at once.
“Qandeel, you? At this hour?” He was very worried.
Qandeel was mindful of Aliya staring at her.
“Sir… ummm…” She wasn’t sure from where to start. Then she said abruptly, “I don’t want to live in Karachi. I will go away in the morning and till then I can’t stay at my home.” She was not even aware what she was saying.
“What happened? Did anybody say something, anything happened? Did you tell Hamza Shahid?” He asked all the questions at once.    
“No, I haven’t told him yet and I request you the same please. I can’t live alone at my home so I decided to go to Islamabad, at Shamma khala’s.”
“Why the sudden decision? You were decided to live at your home last evening.” Her answers were unsatisfactory to him.
“I can’t tell you anything now, please.”
“That’s OK. At least, sit down.” Qandeel obliged.
“I just mean to spend night here at your home. I will leave at first light and will even wait at the airport if flight is late. Just promise me that you will not tell Hamza Shahid anything till I am here?”
He was thoughtful for sometime before he spoke.
“Of course you can stay here as long as you want.” Kamran Ali was about to say more when Qandeel noticed Aliya coming toward them. She had a sick feeling in the stomach.
“Kamran you can’t let her stay here without my consent.” Kamran Ali looked up at her. “I don’t think it’s good for us to let her spend the night here. You should send her to Maryam’s or Hamza Shahid’s.” She declined her request without much ado.
Both Qandeel & Kamran Ali stood up.
“What do you mean? Qandeel came to me for help and she can stay here. Yusuf’s death doesn’t set us apart. In fact I have more duties towards her now. Your insensitiveness can hurt her, please don’t act like this.” He was pleading to Aliya not only with words but with his eyes also but she weren’t heeding to any of the gestures.
“Listen to me Kamran; Qandeel is no ordinary girl. Everybody knows her and this will create many problems for us.” Her demeanor was degrading.
“Come inside, we’ll discuss it there.” Kamran Ali was flabbergasted. He wasn’t expecting Aliya to be so uncooperative in this situation.
“No I am not going anywhere. And one thing is final; she will not stay here. It is my home and I cannot allow you to invite anybody without my permission.”
Before she could say more, Kamran grabbed her arm and towed her inside, out of Qandeel’s earshot. He didn’t want Qandeel to hear nasty stuff anymore.
Qandeel suddenly felt very tired. She was surprised how well she pocketed the insults flung at her this time that her tears managed to remain inside her eyes and the fact that she was still standing at this place.
She did not have to eavesdrop on Aliya and Kamran Ali; she could hear very clearly, what Aliya was saying in loud voice, obviously for Qandeel’s benefit.
“I cannot bear this disgraced girl inside my house one minute. And I advice you as well to not to have anything to do with her now. Yusuf Mairaj is dead so there’s no reason for you to keep any type of association with her.” Qandeel was reminded yet again that her only shelter was nowhere to shield her from cruel world. She will have to bear the verbal lashing; alone. “She disgraced her own father and she wouldn’t care less for our esteem. Nobody is ready to take her then why should we.” Kamran Ali was trying his best to calm her down but all in vain. “Tell her to leave the house at once or else I will go to my mother’s place and will take Saad with me.”
Qandeel backed away a few steps.
She must leave this place at once. She did not want to be called a contention along with vile woman.
There comes a time when travel is written all over your fate, even when your feet are all bruised and you have courage left in you the size of an ant. Even if all you want to do is to curl up into a ball and fade away; move. And that’s what she did; moved.
Qandeel looked at her home key for the last time and put it on the centre table in the lounge. She turned around and came out of the door. She couldn’t walk straight, her eyes couldn’t see past the void, her ears shunned all the sound. Qandeel stumbled on the stairs and her hand grabbed the railing to gain posture. All was a blur. She did not choose to go to Phupho’s house because she knew Phupho would throw her out the instant she would see her. But now she regretted why did she even come to Kamran Ali’s place. Aliya’s words were hurting her more than throwing her out of the home.
She was blind. Qandeel lost the sense of direction. She was just walking, away from the maddening world. When came to her senses, Qandeel realized she left her hand carry at Kamran Ali’s home. And now she only had her hand bag. She did not want to go back to that place and after all, the hand carry only contained some clothes and other stuff which could be sent to her any time so she was not worried about it. Qandeel held the hand bag tightly, put the dupatta on head and walked on the pavement. She did not have any clue as to where to go. She wanted to keep walking along the road but knew that it is inappropriate and dangerous for a young respectable girl to walk the roads unattended at this hour of the night so she had to find a place to spend the night. But where?
Qandeel was exhausted and still she could not think of anywhere to go. She sat down to take a breath and broke down into tears.
“Ammi… Baba, why did you leave me alone? See, I am wandering on the streets and nobody is ready to provide me shelter.” The deserted road prevented her from being harassed by passer-bys. “If you really had to go then you should have taken me with you as well. This world is a very bad place, nobody will let me live here. Please let me come to you.” She cried helplessly.
Qandeel was continuously searching her mind for the solution and finally decided to go to airport where she could wait in lounge safely even if her flight would be late. But she also wanted to visit her ammi abbu in the graveyard, for the last time. Initially her plan was to visit them in the morning when Kamran Ali would be dropping her to airport but now the plan was changed.
Qandeel hailed a taxi and arrived at graveyard.
The place was very poorly lit. Qandeel squinted her eyes in the semi-darkness to acquaint them to the darkness. She walked cautiously toward her parents’ grave, guessing from memory. She finally reached to, first ammi’s grave. Qandeel knelt beside it and touched the headstone tenderly. Then she walked two steps and turned towards the heap of sand under which was lying her Baba. There was no headstone yet but she knew there would be one in few days and what will be written over it.
“Everything went according to your wish Baba. You got your desired day, Friday, ammi beside you and soon you will have your headstone.” Tears flowing. “You always said I am stubborn, I don’t rest until my wish is fulfilled. But see, this time you won. You got everything you wanted. You left me and I was not even able to stop you. I am all alone now. You wanted it, didn’t you? You were restless for ammi, life was suffocating you, you couldn’t wait to join ammi and now finally you have. And I, I have always been unlucky. I don’t have anybody. I am helpless.” Her sobs were the only sound in the silent graveyard. Her eyes stung but she didn’t care. She filled her hands with the sand and cried.
Qandeel heard somebody calling out and looked around who was speaking.
That old cane was tuck-tuck-ing towards her; the same sound which frightened her and she always wanted to run away from it. But not tonight. There was no fear, no apprehension from this sound.
Chacha Khera came towards her, leaning heavily on his old cane, lantern in other hand.
“Who’s it?” Chacha Khera stooped a little over Qandeel to look closely.
Qandeel couldn’t reply to him. Her face glistened with tears.
“Oh, ‘tis you, Yusuf’s dhee?” Qandeel nodded. “What you doin’ here at this hour of night? You could’ve com’ in de mornin’ to meet yer daddy.” Chacha Khera never sounded so sweet in all those years.
“There will never be a morning, Chacha.” She sighed.
“Na, putter! This ain’t way to talk. The One in the Heaven will be angry. ‘tis a dark nigh’, me concede but when the time for mornin’ will com’ then no darkness will be able to cove’ it, ‘tis ol’ man’ word; a bright mornin’ will com’.” Qandeel saw gloom and dark everywhere in her life. Chacha Khera bent down to sit on his toes and put his hand on her head. The gesture was so overwhelming for her, she closed her eyes. Letting the relief wash over her.
“I know luv, you dun have anybody in this world but we can’t interfere in God’s business now, can we? Don’t you worry my child. Everything will be fine again.” Qandeel saw the twinkle in old man’s eyes and she felt ashamed of herself because she was well aware what her eyes contained; nothing. Everything was empty about her.
“Nothing will get well now, Chacha. I am an orphan now.” And started crying again.
“Oh dear, don’t cry. Be patient, surely Allah is with patient.”
Qandeel nodded and stood up, “Chacha, I am going now.” Chacha Khera patted her head affectionately and made way for her. She looked at her parents’ graves one last time. She didn’t know when, if, she’d return to them.
Qandeel walked a little more on the road and then sat in the corner to take some rest. She was scared now. Fatigue and hunger were winning over her. She wanted to sleep but couldn’t close her eyes because of the ever present danger. She wanted to reach airport as soon as she could but there was not an ounce of strength left in her body. She rubbed her eyes to make sleep go but it was futile. Her mind was too tired to make not of any resistance and then miraculously the cell phone in her handbag rang. She was thankful of this invasion in her sleepy head and attended the call.
“What is wrong with your voice? What happened?” The questions woke her up.
“Khala, I am not fine.” Qandeel sobbed over the phone.
“Come to me wherever you are. I was just scolding Sohail why did he leave you alone there.” That brought Qandeel to full attention. “I was so worried for you, dearest. I can’t even sleep properly. Come to me, I will take care of you, my sweetheart.” Khala started crying and Qandeel wanted to run into her arms and cry her own heart out until it was thoroughly washed and sleep in her arms. “I was telling Sohail that you’re not alright. That something is wrong with you and he kept on rejecting it, calling it my over thinking effects.” Qandeel also started crying. They were talking when Sohail came on line and inquired where’s she. Qandeel told him and his voice was strained due to worry.
“What are you doing there at this hour? Why are you not at home?”
“I was too agitated at home and was missing Baba so came here.” Qandeel edited the reasons.
“Go back home and pack your things. I am confirming your seat for Islamabad.” He instructed her.
“I don’t want to go home. My stuff can be sent to me later any day, I just need to meet Khala.” There was silence for a while at other end and then Sohail said,
“Alright, stay there. I am calling my friend Imran. He’s coming to pick you and will drop you at airport. No need to take taxi, OK?”   
“OK.” She said
“I will call you back in five minutes.” Sohail said and disconnected the call.
Slowly she stood up and was going back to the graveyard when her cell phone rang again.
“Imran is coming in fifteen minutes. Stay away from the main road.” He also told her car number and color, for just to be sure.
Qandeel stood by the main gate of the graveyard. She was going to a new place, perhaps a new beginning. Cool winds were whispering their farewell to her, caressing her softly. She was going to miss this city so much, she knew it. But she couldn’t decide whom she would miss the most nor she wanted to hold any prisoners.  
The silent metropolitan was reflecting her mood; melancholy was congealing inside and out.

(Special thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)